In yesterday's passage Joshua directed twelve of the men to remove twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan after all the people but the priests had crossed over. The priests have been standing in the middle of the riverbed, holding the ark of the covenant, while the entire congregation went through on dry ground. Today the priests are told to come out of the water and the Jordan begins to flow again.
"Now the priests who carried the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the Lord had commanded Joshua was done by the people, just as Moses had directed Joshua. The people hurried over, and as soon as all of them had crossed, the ark of the Lord and the priests came to the other side while the people watched." (Joshua 4:10-11) We don't know the number of the Israelites at this time but earlier in the Old Testament it was estimated by many scholars that the congregation numbered as many as two million while they were in the wilderness. We know they had over 600,000 men of fighting age (they had to be at least twenty) who were physically qualified to be soldiers. This count doesn't include men aged 18-19 or men with physical issues that excluded them from military service. It also doesn't include women or children. I think at least two million may have crossed the Jordan, possibly more, since we don't know how many children were born during the wilderness years.
As promised, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh who had already claimed their land on the other side of the Jordan crossed the river ahead of the other tribes to help them fight for the promised land. "The men of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over, ready for battle, in front of the Israelites, as Moses had directed them. About forty thousand armed for battle crossed over before the Lord to the plains of Jericho for war." (Joshua 4:12-13)
The Lord promised Joshua that He would cause the people to esteem him greatly so they will follow his commands. He fulfills this promise on the day of the Jordan River crossing. "That day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they had stood in awe of Moses." (Joshua 4:14) The Lord's intention is not that the congregation would worship Joshua but that they would give him the respect and attention due him as the Lord's chosen leader. During Moses' administration the Lord performed many miracles to prove that Moses was His chosen leader. Now that same power is going to be with Joshua. In the New Testament we find the apostles performing miracles and these miracles served as signs that their testimony about Jesus Christ was true. The miracles that accompanied their words proved the validity of their testimony. The same thing is happening here in the Old Testament. The miracles are a sign that Joshua is speaking on behalf of the Lord and that the people can trust and obey his instructions.
We were told earlier in today's passage that the priests crossed over last but now this information is repeated in more detail. "Then the Lord said to Joshua, 'Command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant law to come up out of the Jordan.' So Joshua commanded the priests, 'Come up out of the Jordan.' And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before." (Joshua 4:15-18)
Just as the Lord caused the Red Sea to come back together after the Israelites crossed over, He allows the Jordan River to begin flowing again just as soon as the people have crossed over. There is really no logical way the people can explain either of these events without accepting that they were miracles. If the Lord had left the Red Sea open for days, or if He had left the Jordan River stopped long after the people crossed over, they might have begun to doubt later on whether the Lord's hand was in these events. But the fact that He parted the waters at the very moment they needed to start crossing, and the fact that He put the waters back into their normal state just as soon as the people took their last step through, cannot be explained away as a coincidence. I've noticed in my own life that the Lord frequently arranges for the answers to my prayers to come through in such a way that I can't explain them as coincidences. He arranges things so I can't believe I solved my problem on my own or so I can't give someone else the credit for the solution to my problems. The only thing I can say is, "God did this!"
In yesterday's passage we were told that the twelve stones taken out of the Jordan were to be set up at the place they would camp. Today we learn that this was at a place called Gilgal. "On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, 'In the future when your descendants ask their parents, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.' For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what He had done to the Red Sea when He dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God." (Joshua 4:19-24)
It's important for our spiritual health to regularly think back on all the ways the Lord has delivered us. This helps us pray with confidence about the cares and problems of today. The same God who parted the Red Sea parted the Jordan River forty years later and the same God who turned your circumstances around in the past is still just as powerful to move on your behalf as He ever was. He hasn't lost any of His strength. His love for you has not faded. His mercies haven't run out. The God who heard your prayers at five years old or at twenty-five years old or at fifty years old is still hearing them today and will continue to hear them in the future. The Lord acts on behalf of those who love Him---on behalf of those who lay their requests before Him and wait expectantly for Him to take action. (Isaiah 64:4b, Psalm 5:3)
I heard a new song the other day and immediately fell in love with it and have added it to the playlist on my phone. It talks about how God is still the same as He ever was. It reminds us He hasn't broken any of His promises or run out of kindness and mercy toward us. It assures us that He hasn't lost any of His power and never will. I'm including a link to the song below and I hope it will be a blessing to you like it has been to me.